Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad

Monday would have been my Dad’s 98th birthday.
Dad’s been gone a long time, and I’m only now beginning to get a handle on what kind of a person he was. His life was so very different from mine, and I’m now starting to realize that good part of that was his doing.
I’m now the age Dad was when I started high school. The poor man.
Dad was driven by duty: duty to God, duty to family, duty to country. It was so much a part of his being that even asking why that duty existed was heresy.
I started ninth grade three weeks after Woodstock.
Dad didn’t think much of rebels. Dad didn’t think much of people who were hip and cool. Dad didn’t think much of the Revolution of the ’60s. Dad really hated rock-and-roll.
His son knew nothing else, loved rock-and-roll, and desperately wanted to be cool. The idea of a career in the media? Heresy.
It was a good thing Dad a duty to family. I might have been family, but without that sense of duty, I would have been out on my behind about, oh, 1970.
It wasn’t until near the end of his life, when my boss exuberantly told him that I was the best thing that had ever happened to the boss’s radio station (the boss was drunk, but what he said had an impact on Dad) that Dad finally thought maybe I might have known what I was doing.
Dad never sat at a computer, but he insisted I learn how to type. That, in and of itself, changed my life. He was a U.S. Navy storekeeper in the South Pacific in World War II, then came back to civilian life and worked the rest of his career as an accountant. I suspect he would have loved Excel and Access, but I have no idea how he would have reacted to the world of the Web, iPads, iPods, mobile phones and satellite video.
I can't even imagine what he would have thought of a world where major players are called Google and Yahoo.
Dad was something unusual in his generation: A university graduate. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1940, at the age of 26. He wasn’t too unhappy when it took me until 26 to graduate from Central, although he never understood the appeal of “that teachers college” I fell in love with the first time I walked onto the campus.
It was a great place to meet girls, Dad.
And even though he was a U of M grad, he didn’t think much of college professors. I think it was from him that I first heard the term “overeducated fool.”
We were so, so different. I learned from him that I had to accept my own children as being very different from me, as well. That wasn’t something Dad tried to teach, but I learned it anyway.
Funny thing. I don’t think he told me he loved me until after I graduated from college. I think he maybe, maybe, accepted me. But I’m not sure he ever liked me.
I don’t know if I ever would have or could have been friends with my dad. Maybe that was the whole point.
I’m glad Dad did his duty to his family. It got me here.
Happy birthday, Dad.

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